I watched the Devil in Ohio miniseries on Netflix. It surprised me how incredibly tense it was able to make me. I felt my chest get so tight! I expected the entire “Satanic Panic” of a Lucifer-worshipping cult to be hokey, but it wasn’t. Somehow Daria Polatin was able to make this cloak-wearing, isolated, Celtic-based cult with their own jurisdiction blend with the modern world of psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Mathis.

The miniseries stars: Emily Deschanel, Sam Jaeger, Gerardo Celasco, Madeleine Arthur, Xaria Dotson, Alisha Newton, and Naomi Tan.

The book’s description makes it sound like it’s more from one of the daughter’s perspectives, but the miniseries is centered around the mother and this traumatized teen girl with an upside-down pentagram carved into her back, Mae Dodd.

Mae Dodd…so much can be said about this complex character. She’s a victim, but also a highly-clever girl with a talent for manipulating people.

There are factual representations about what happens to victims of trauma, childhood abuse, and domestic violence. It is also quite a miracle to have girls and women at the center of this without any of them facing sexual assault. IT CAN BE DONE.

devil in ohio
Devil in Ohio. (L to R) Madeleine Arthur as Mae Dodd, Xaria Dotson as Jules Mathis in episode 104 of Devil in Ohio. Cr. Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix © 2022

 

There are several nods to Stephen King’s Carrie. Besides overt mentions of it, the sub-genre of horror about victimized/troubled teen girls is the forefront of this story. There are also the parents and entire population of Amon Town made up of religious zealots who follow a man descended from the original prophet Caleb. It seems all the men who have been in charge of the family and hence the town get messages from crows, voices that tell them what to do. In Carrie, her mother didn’t hear voices or hallucinate, but she was definitely a religious zealot—Christian rather than Satanic.

The cult has an interesting tradition that when times get tough, like crop failures and droughts, they have a little human sacrifice. The chosen human is called a Morningstar and “married” to Lucifer through this ritual. The Morningstars have to willingly submit to the ritual after they’ve been chosen. There’s really no clarity about what happens if one were to refuse, but hey, at least they’re asked, right?

Although the taglines of Devil in Ohio says it’s based on a real story, the author admits there’s a lot fictionalized. For the show, the writing team created the actual “bible” for the cult and wrote original hymns and creeds. The opening theme song by Bishop Briggs, Lessons of the Fire, comes in loud (on my tv) and gripping with an ethereal voice and pulsating strings that get dragged out slowly. I don’t know music so I don’t know how to properly say what the different band sections are doing. It’s very much like Evanescence was. If you’re making a Halloween/spooky season playlist add this song.

Devil in Ohio is not as brilliant as Midnight Mass – also on Netflix – but surprised me how good it is. The fact that I’m still thinking of it enough to write a review says something about the quality of the directing and the subject.

Rating: 5 stars

five star rating

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